But with the ‘R’ rate creeping up, local lockdowns becoming a regular occurrence across the country and hospitality operators still on the knife edge of survival, hospitality can ill-afford the financial impact of further no-shows.
Zonal’s online bookings experts have put together a quick checklist to help you reduce no-shows and boost profitability in your venue during COVID times.
1. Create an official booking policy
You may have a range of policies floating around that you would like your customers to comply with when dining at your venue. Having a list of terms and conditions that people must agree to before making a reservation means that your customers must stick to them, giving you more control. Terms and conditions could include the following:
- Every channel on which bookings can be made e.g. your website, by phone, on a third-party site
- Whether reservations are necessary, or walk-ins are acceptable
- How far in advance a table reservation should be made
- How long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show
- A cancellation fee (to be determined by you) applies if not enough notice is given
2. Build a relationship with your customers from the point of booking and give them plenty of opportunities to cancel
Your confirmation email or inbound phone call is the start of a one-to-one relationship with your customers, and your opportunity to start building their loyalty and trust. Loyal customers are less likely to no-show, or at least warn you in advance by cancelling their booking, so consider, carefully the information you include in addition to the booking details to make the best first impression.
Make it clear and easy for them to cancel if they no longer require the booking – in your email confirmation, SMS reminders and over the phone by a member of the team.
As with no-shows, cancellations are unfortunately more likely at the present time, so by catching them early, you can give yourself the maximum opportunity to re-sell the table.
3. Be clear about the COVID safety measures you have put in place
Numerous studies over the past couple of months have cited COVID safety concerns as a major reason for not turning up for a reservation. Whilst the lack of cancellation is inexcusable, being absolutely clear in your booking communications, up front, about the Coronavirus safety measures you have put in place will put customers’ minds at ease and manage their expectations well in advance. What will they be expected to do from the moment they arrive? Where will they be sitting? What about toilet facilities? Show them what to expect by sending them links to photos, or better still, a video tour of your venue.
4. Send out SMS and email reminders
After a reservation is made, sending an automated confirmation email or text message can be extremely effective, as diners with smartphones can add these into their calendars, often reminding them of their pre-booking. Using an intelligent table reservations system such as Zonal’s, gives customers the flexibility to cancel their reservation via SMS allowing venues to free up their tables to be resold. With the average open rate for SMS being 82%, sending reminders 48 hours before a reservation can have a huge impact on minimising no-shows for those who are forgetful, who want to make amendments to their booking, are poorly or self-isolating, or are just not feeling confident about their safety in a public place.
5. Run a waitlist for queuing diners to fill no-show table bookings
With the reduced number of covers available in most venues due to social distancing regulations, turning diners waiting for a table away because you’re fully booked only for your pre-booked tables to no-show is a real kick in the teeth. A smart table management system such as Zonal’s, will help to prevent this by enabling you to run and manage a waitlist. With precise wait time, combined with your policy for cut-off times for no-shows, you could be filling your no-show tables in no time!
6. Consider taking deposits – but only if relevant for your business
Deposit schemes divide opinion across the industry and are certainly not relevant to all hospitality businesses. However, with reduced seating capacities due to social distancing guidelines, a deposit scheme may be essential for the continued viability of some businesses. Reservation cancellation fees are nothing new and can persuade customers to take their reservation more seriously. Many restaurants have already implemented this ranging from a £5 deposit to £25.
Pre-paid deposits can be redeemed at the time of paying the bill, so bookers are more willing to show up for their reservations and could end up spending more because they’ve already got what seems like money off.
Make sure your booking system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant, so your customers’ data is always processed correctly and securely.
For further tips on reducing no-shows, contact our in-house bookings experts who will be happy to help.